The operators of a northeast Iowa cheese plant are preparing to expand. Swiss Valley Farms CEO Don Boelens says they’re putting nearly $21 million into the plant in Luana. “We’re basically replacing some aging cheese-making equipment, and in the process we’ll expand the capacity and capability to do different type of cheeses in the process,” Boelens says.
The company received $465,000 in direct financial assistance from the state along with some tax benefits. Boelens says the expansion is expected to be completed in 2016. “We’re in the process of doing the final engineering for all the things we want to do. We will probably break ground sometime this summer… and it takes about 18 months in some cases for some of the equipment, so if we do that it will be near the end of 2016 by the time it’s all completed,” Boelens says.
He says the expansion won’t be a big impact to their workforce. “It’s actually preservation of existing jobs, now long-term there may be some additional jobs added, but in the short-term it will be just updating the equipment and just making sure that the plant is prepared to move us into the future,” Boelens says. The plant now employees 89 people.
The milk used in the cheese-making process comes from an area that’s in a 90-mile radius of the plant, but the final product can end up thousands of miles away.”Most of it goes inside the U.S., but there actually is some of it that gets exported,” Boelens says. “We export products to 27 different countries. We actually make cream cheese in the plant and that’s one of the products that we export.”
The plant now also makes Swiss, Baby Swiss, Gouda, Neufchatel and Sweet Whey. The expansion will allow them to make Maasdam, Havarti and Muenster, and increase the production of cream Cheese and whey.